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Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy: What is it, treatment process and duration and side effects | KKH

Radiation Therapy - What it is

What Is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation is the use of high energy x-rays to treat malignant tumors and some benign conditions. It had been in use for medical treatment for more than 100 years and ongoing innovations are increasing its effectiveness.

The external beam treatment is not painful, and there is no discomfort during the treatment. You will not become "radioactive" and hence will not pose any health hazard to your family members or friends.

What To Expect?

You will be seen by your doctor who will determine your treatment plan. An appointment will be made for treatment simulation planning.

What Is Simulation Planning?

This is a procedure to determine the area of treatment for the purpose of planning your radiation fields. The procedure may take 15 minutes.

  • You will be asked to lie on the X-ray table for the procedure.
  • A piece of tampon soaked with contrast medium will be inserted into your vagina for this examination, this is usually painless.
  • X-rays will be taken and various marking may be drawn on your skin. Permanent markings or tattoos will also be made. This is to allow alignment during set-up.
  • DO NOT wash away the markings.
  • DO NOT use soap on the area when you bathe until you have completed your course of radiotherapy.

Treatment Process And Duration

Treatment for different patients varies from one day to a few weeks. You may be required to receive treatment on one or more treatment units.

In the treatment room, your radiographer will put makings on your skin in order to align your positioning on the treatment couch. The machine will be directed accurately towards the targetted area for treatment.

During the treatment process, your radiographer is constantly monitoring you through a close-circuit television camera equipped with an intercom facility.

Each treatment session may last between 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the complexity of the set-up as well as the dosage level to be given.

Temporary Side-Effects And Management

Organs Affected Management

Bowels

  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bleeding
  • Low residue diet
    + / - medications
  • Uncommon, to notify doctors

Bladder

  • Bleeding
  • Frequency
  • Pain during urination
  • Bleeding
  • Uncommon, to notify doctors
  • Increase fluid intake
    + / - medications

Skin

  • Dryness
  • Itchiness / irritation
  • Soreness
  • Creams prescribed by doctors

Vagina

  • Stenosis
  • Atrophy
  • Uncommon, to notify doctors
  • Vaginal douching / vagina cylinders
  • Creams prescribed by doctors

A List Of Do's

  • Do look after yourself really well
  • Do try to eat a lot of healthy / nutritious food and drink lots of fluids
  • Do have extra rest if you feel tired
  • Do wear loose clothings
  • Do inform your doctor of other medications that you are presently taking
  • Most importantly, do feel free to talk to us, if you are worried or depressed about yourself

A List Of Don'ts

  • Do not remove any of the markings drawn on you
  • Do not treat your skin harshly
  • Do not use soap, deodorants, perfumed talc, perfume, or anything not prescribed by your doctor
  • Do not wear tight restricting clothings

Weekly Reviews

During the course of the treatment, you will be reviewed once a week by your doctor. Your radiographer will inform you of your routine review dates.

Follow Up

Once your treatment has been completed, you will be required to come back for regular follow up at the National Cancer Centre as well as the scheduled appointments at the Gynaecological Cancer Centre at KK Hospital

What Is Vaginal Douching?

It is the procedure during which salted water or medicated cleansing solution (as per your doctors' recommendation) is used to wash away accumulated secretions, blood or discharges in the vagina that cause adhesions and may increase the risk of infection.

Why Is It Important?

During radiotherapy to the pelvic area, vaginal secretions will thicken into a glue-like fluid which causes adhesions (vaginal walls sticking together). This can no longer be parted making future examinations of the cervix impossible and sexual intercourse difficult. The secretions soon decrease, the vagina walls become dry and healing will occur over a period of time. Stenosis (hardening) and atrophy (shrinkage in size) may occur during healing and the use of vaginal cylinders and douching will decrease the extent of these effects./p>

Douching Clinic Appointment

The Oncology Nurse Counsellors will see you on a Friday after commencing therapy to advise you on your douching schedule and demonstrate the use of the cylinder. These items will then be given to you.

How Is Vaginal Douching Carried Out?

The nurse will explain the procedure to you as follows:

  • In a half squatting position, insert the douch nozzle as far in as is comfortable
  • Squeeze bottle until all contents have been expelled
  • Withdraw nozzle and dry off
  • Wash the douche kit with soap, rinse and air dry bottle for next use

N.B. If using a bathtub, bedpan or wide plastic basin, the procedure may be done lying down.

When Is Vaginal Douching Carried Out?

The side effects of radiation therapy usually start on the second week of treatment.

Your Oncology Nurse Counsellor will schedule a date around this time for you to attend the Douching/Dilator clinic.

Use Of Vaginal Dilator

In addition to vaginal douching, a cylindrical apparatus known as a vaginal dilator may be lubricated and inserted into the vagina to prevent adhesions.

The schedule is as follows:
Three times a week for 3 months from the commencement of treatment and once a week thereafter for life.

Sexual Advice

You may resume intercourse 3 months after you have had major gynaecological surgery. Also, you may resume sexual intercourse as soon as you feel comfortable on completion of your course of radiotherapy. Consult your doctor or oncology nurse when in doubt.

Oncology Support Group

'No man is an island' and all the more at this time of your life. Everyone, no matter how confident will treasure a listening ear, a helping hand and a loving smile. The Oncology Support Group is formed by volunteers who help in the caring of our patients diagnosed with cancer that may change their lifestyles or increase their fears.

We unite with the consistent action of care for your doubts, fears and queries, concern for your relatives and clarification of information regarding certain therapeutic procedures and side effects. We also help to link those in need to other sources of non-medical assistance available.

The Oncology Support Group is an action group founded on the principles of love and servitude.

Please call your counsellor or KK Gynaecological Cancer for more information.

For queries regarding services:

  • Available at Gynaecological Cancer Centre (KKH): 6394 2160 / 6394 2162
  • Available at Department of Therapeutic Radiology (NCC): 6394 4210 / 6394 4211 / 6436 8181
  • Name / Contact No. of Oncology Support Group Counsellor: 6394 2157

Radiation Therapy - Symptoms

Radiation Therapy - How to prevent?

Radiation Therapy - Causes and Risk Factors

Radiation Therapy - Diagnosis

Radiation Therapy - Treatments

Radiation Therapy - Preparing for surgery

Radiation Therapy - Post-surgery care

Radiation Therapy - Other Information

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